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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Research Project #441578

Research Project: Establishing a Soil Health Framework for Water-limited Regions

Location: Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research

Project Number: 3096-13000-010-023-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jan 1, 2022
End Date: Dec 31, 2024

The goal of this project is to develop a framework of soil health indicators to be linked to different processes (validate new methods, define the indicator and its link to a given process), and provide a better mechanistic understanding of soil health indicators and soil water dynamics to support crop production in water-limited regions (e.g., develop an equation, new soil health index, etc).

Soil samples will be taken from long research plots located in Colorado and New Mexico, and several soil analyses will be conducted within the first year. Analyses will be classified into chemical, physical and biological properties. However, our main goal is to define a set of indicators that should be used to assess soil health in water limited semiarid regions that represent essential functions including water dynamics. New methods for soil organic matter extraction and fractioning will be evaluated to expand on the SOM indicators available for soils with low organic matter content and/or semiarid regions. Crop biomass, crop yields, weather data, and water measurements will be available for the different treatments in these research plots. During the second to third year, the data will be analyzed in different ways. For example, different statistical approaches from regressions to multivariate plots will be used to evaluate the sensitivity of different indicators to management. Methods for similar type of information will be compared with different approaches and models on how they relate in their sensitivity to management. Additionally, we will develop an equation that link changes in one indicator to another and link soil health with different ecosystem services including those critical to water conservation.